Over the next several weeks, Lapeer Community Schools will pay tribute to many of the Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic. These are the employees who have been singled out by their colleagues for going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure we could keep our schools open for face-to-face instruction. Each Unsung Hero will receive a gift certificate courtesy of our friends at Meijer in Lapeer.
All we needed was a miracle. At least that’s how we felt at the peak of the Pandemic, when District officials were doing everything possible to open up our schools and keep them open.
Fortunately, there is a time and a place for everyone to shine. For this time and place, Lapeer Community Schools depended on a super group of talented mechanics to keep our buses on the road while numerous employees in the transportation department were out sick or quarantined. In truth, we were hanging by a thread.
Nobody’s perfect, but Mike and the Mechanics (Mike Bastien, Tom Lossing, Shaina Rowden and Daryl Smith), as a team, aren’t far off. Mike has been fixture in the District for 33 years. His leadership was indispensable long before the Pandemic, but in the last year he and his team have shone brightest.
Out of the blue, the Pandemic became a call to arms for our mechanics; since then, they’ve spent countless 12 and even 14-hour days repairing buses and, very often, driving our routes. To underscore the point, consider Daryl Smith. He had to take the reins of his own bus back in October.
“They’ve been multi-tasking … pulling double duty covering runs and keeping buses moving,” one colleague said. “They impress me every day with their willingness to assist in keeping the department moving as smoothly as it can with all the crazy schedules.”
Mike and the Mechanics have been busy performing preventative maintenance, emergency repairs, sanitization, and much more even in the midst of COVID-related challenges in their own tight-nit group.
“They’ve been pulling triple their weight,” another colleague said. “They are always coming up with new and creative ways to maintain and extend the fleet.”
As you may know, the District has been in a declining enrollment position for many years. Because of this, the budget has not allowed for the purchase of buses on a normal replacement schedule. For Mike and the Mechanics, every day they get up and pour another cup of coffee knowing that our students depend on an aging fleet to get them to school.
“Our transportation budget is lean, which requires our mechanics to take the greatest care with our buses,” said LCS Superintendent Matt Wandrie. “They move heaven and earth to ensure our runs get done. We are incredibly fortunate to have them on our team.”
Our diesels aren’t silent running, but our mechanics certainly are. They come to work every day and get the job done without complaining, even in the most difficult of times. Plain and simple. When one bus gets taken in, another gets taken out and the cycle repeats itself. Nobody knows how much energy our mechanics have invested in their jobs, but seeing is believing: we could not have made it through this last year without them.
Each one of us has had an important role in navigating this challenge. Rather than pretend it didn’t happen, I believe, as a district, we are going to be better because of the Pandemic.
I get the feeling, the best is yet to come.
Thank you Mike, Tom, Shaina and Daryl for all you do, yesterday, today and tomorrow, to get our kids to school each day. We appreciate you!